Reuters reports that starting this Sunday, TikTok will be removed from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store based on an order from the Trump Administration. On Wednesday, TikTok asked a U.S. judge to block the administration’s order similar to the way a federal judge on Saturday issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the U.S. government from banning downloads of WeChat in the states.
TikTok turns to the courts in an attempt to block orders to ban U.S. downloads of the app
TikTok is a short-form video app with over 50 million daily active users in the U.S. Extremely popular with teens, subscribers can create 15-second and 60-second videos. Much of the content includes lip-synchs, dances, comedy bits, and pranks. During the pandemic, TikTok became even more popular as it gave those stuck at home something to do. TikTok owner ByteDance is a Chinese company and the U.S. government fears that it is able to steal the personal data belonging to 100 million American subscribers and send it to Beijing. Thus, the Trump administration has called TikTok a threat to national security.
TikTok asks a U.S. judge to block the administration’s ban against new downloads of the app
Downloads of TikTok were supposed to be banned in the U.S. starting this past Monday. But talks between Oracle, Walmart, and Byte Dance over a plan that would give Oracle 12.5% and Walmart 7.5% of a new company called TikTok Global was considered a step in the right direction. Thus, the Commerce Department decided to give TikTok an additional week to get the deal done. TikTok Global would be an American company 80% owned by ByteDance, and President Donald Trump has already given his blessing to this arrangement.
In the papers that were filed in court on Wednesday, TikTok said that it is not a national security threat. In fact, TikTok said that the restrictions that the Trump administration want placed against it “were not motivated by a genuine national security concern, but rather by political considerations relating to the upcoming general election.” If the order against it isn’t blocked by the court, TikTok says, “hundreds of millions of Americans who have not yet downloaded TikTok will be shut out of this large and diverse online community – six weeks before a national election.”
Chinese State media is not happy about the deal between Oracle, Walmart, and Byte Dance. China Daily and the Global Times said yesterday that there was no reason for a deal to be signed. The papers said that the transaction being discussed is based on bullying and extortion by the U.S. Chinese state news agency Xinhua said on Wednesday that the national security concerns that the U.S. consistently brings up are bogus. The papers wrote, “It is time that other countries saw through the outrageous farce of the TikTok drama, knew what is really at stake, and joined hands to oppose such blatant robberies and maintain a fair global business environment.”
According to Reuters, ByteDance has also applied for a tech export license. The application was made through Beijing’s municipal commerce bureau and ByteDance is awaiting a decision. Last month, for the first time in 12 years, the Chinese government updated the list of technologies that it can ban from export. On that list is the algorithm used by TikTok that determines which videos users get to see. Developed in China, the algorithm cannot be exported out of China which gives the Communist Chinese government some control over the deal that is being worked out between ByteDance, Oracle, and Walmart. There have been some conflicting statements between the companies over the terms of the deal they each reached with the White House which means that we could remain extremely far away from a deal being announced. But again, there is the deadline to think about and once again those in the states who want to download TikTok on their mobile devices might have only a few days to do so. In November, U.S. subscribers might be forced to give up the app forever.